Fulton County BOC Gets a State of the Art Renovation

February 16, 2021

by Danny Pratt, CTS-D

In September 2019, NTI was invited by Cooper Carry Architects to join them on a site visit to the Fulton County Government Building (seen below as it looked then). The plan was to give the Fulton County Board of Commissioner’s Assembly Hall its first major renovation since first opening its doors over 2 decades ago.

Fulton County Board of Commissioners Assembly Hall header

Sean McLendon, Principal at Cooper Carry, requested that after completing an initial site visit, NTI prepare several solutions for review which could improve upon the capabilities of the existing system, while bringing the space up-to-date with current technology. When first evaluating the technology, it was evident that a refresh was not only a good idea but was nearly mandatory due to the age of the equipment. As NTI’s Project Manager and Design Engineer, my task was to present an executive summary with several options for the county’s consideration.

One of the options presented stood out as a clear favorite for the county. The selected package removed projection from the space in favor of Direct-View LED (DVLED) technology. This type of display is a premium solution, which was reflected in the investment required to employ it for nearly every option available. There was an exception - the Primeview FusionMAX line of displays. Rather than creating each DVLED screen “piece-meal”, the Primeview solution was a groundbreaking product with a different approach. The FusionMAX is a line of DVLED screens that come with every aspect of the wall, all in one SKU. That is, instead of needing a customized design made up of 10(+) unique part numbers (piece-meal), the FusionMAX allows for a single pre-designed system for multiple screen sizes commonly seen in large venues. The investment needed for this solution was significantly less than the alternatives.

A 220” FusionMAX screen now resides behind the board members and serves as the main display, while two 110” FusionMAX units flank the main display for audience members in far-right or far-left seats, as seen above.

The agenda management software was also being updated as part of the renovation. The Clerk and her team needed a direct line of sight to the displays dedicated to the task of presenting the meeting topics laid out in the agenda. To answer this need, (x2) 98” LG monitors were installed adjacent to the 110” screens, but facing toward the clerk well.

Just to the house left of the dais area, there is a small hallway that leads to the Commissioner chambers. In the chambers, there is a wall mounted 75” LG screen, and a 49” screen dedicated for the FGTV screen. At the room’s conference table, participants have multiple HDMI connections to present content to the screen. The chambers also shares a Polycom Group 500 video conferencing Codec normally used to connect the annex buildings during Commissioners meetings. When not used for meetings, the chambers is also a fully functionally video/tele-conferencing suite. To fulfil all required applications, this area can receive or send any source within the system, so Commissioners can deliberate while viewing the content of interest. All functionality within the chambers is facilitated by a 10” touch interface.

The chambers include a dedicated PC for web-based conferencing such as zoom or Webex. A Vaddio camera is mounted at the TV, and a Shure MXA910 beam-forming microphone is mounted in the ceiling. The signals are converted to USB via an AV-Bridge and are able to be consumed by the resident PC. 

Although this is high end AV equipment, they are seen by a PC as standard USB 2.0 devices which offers the greatest flexibility and control. For example: laptops can also be used with NVX’s native USB 2.0 matrix routing, by connecting to the USB at the table along with the video input.

With so many displays and so many disparate sources of content, a mature IP-based audiovisual routing system was required. NTI turned to Crestron and the NVX platform. The extremely flexible nature of the platform allowed the large system to be managed easily without a large HD video switcher. 

It was serendipitous that the assembly hall update was happening at the same time that Presido, an IT vendor, was engaged in the update of all switches throughout the facility. Through coordination with Presidio and the county, we were able to get several VLANs created for the assembly hall. This allows the audiovisual equipment to have its own virtual network, while still being connected to the enterprise network. A Crestron Director XIO unit was provided to manage the NVX network and keep devices up to date as new firmware is released. With this design methodology, network administrators can easily provide support for the devices while also allowing off-site remote support.

Another aspect of the project was enhancing the audio experience for both the Commissioners and the audience members. The existing system had a legacy discussion system (mic and speaker combo at each dais seat). This system was updated to Shure’s Microflex Complete lineup of discussion products. The system is an automatic mix-minus system that provides each participant on the dais and side wings with a personal microphone and loudspeaker, all in one sleek unit. 

The new systems had to have minimal impact on the ceiling since it was not included in the renovation of the Assembly Hall. Therefore, a creative approach was employed to enhance the audio for the audience. Using JBL pro Control 227 loudspeakers, back-cans, and square grilles, we were able to mimic the aesthetics of the previous speakers. This provided the high fidelity that JBL is known for while causing minimal impact on ceiling features. Additionally, speakers were replaced in adjacent zones around the assembly hall for the viewers on level 2 behind the glass walls.

One of the main goals of the project was to provide a space that could be rented for local assemblies. To provide flexibility for presenters, a single Shure ULXD quad receiver was employed. (4) lapel/beltpacks and (4) Handheld transmitters were provided to allow each of the 4 channels to have the option to use a handheld or lavalier for each channel, with only 4 wireless microphones active at any one time.

For the ‘user-interface access levels’, a tiered approach was paramount for proper control. Non-technical areas were programmed with limited system controls to limit users to certain functions at their respective work area. Clerk table-top touch panels as well as the rack-mounted panel in the booth provide the full suite of controls, including advanced audio and video routing. An iPad running the Crestron app provides a wireless panel and has identical functionality as the technical panels.

The system required a solid interface from the dedicated AV system to the broadcast suite so that the county can broadcast meetings on FGTV (Fulton Government Television). The solution included an NVX card chassis which was placed in the broadcast suite rack, then converted and scaled to the requested 1080i @59.9 (the preferred input to the Ross Carbonite switcher). Conversion from HDMI to SDI was performed using a Decimator Designs scaler. 

A control panel is located within the broadcast suite to allow advanced routing and PTZ camera control. Panasonic cameras were selected for use as the broadcast PTZ cameras, while Vaddio was chosen for the Polycom for connecting the annexes. Raw Dante feeds are also being sent to the mixing console in the broadcast suite to allow flexibility in audio content.

Another objective was to enable the local press to receive quality feeds from the installed cameras and audio of each gathering. A large press plate was created which now provides SDI feeds as well as XLR mix outs (12 each) for local media to use for video or audio journalism. This was accomplished by using a Decimator Design scaler and (3)SDI Distribution amplifiers for video. For audio, an Atterotech Synapse 32O unit was deployed allowing a single dante channel to provide all audio for the press. This ensures quality audio and video feeds to be used, rather than having to set up extra cameras or microphones.

This project succeeded because of the collective team that worked on it. There was amazing coordination among all trades throughout the project thanks to CBRE’s Duane Dunlap as the project manager. Since the solution included a networked AV system residing on an enterprise network, we needed to coordinate early to get the IP settings correct to accommodate the new AV equipment. We had incredible coordination from the county, the architect, as well as the rest of the design teams involved in the renovation. The deployment was remarkably successful on the IT front, and with Crestron’s Director XIO-80, the IT team will be able to easily manage and update the Crestron equipment from an intuitive easy-to-use dashboard on the administrative PC.

NTI was fortunate to have a top-flight team to work with. Cooper Carry did a phenomenal job providing a design canvas on which to paint. The county and CBRE were highly involved from the start, vastly improving the accuracy of our bidder documentation. And the electrical contractor was exceptional, making a lot of things happen that were difficult to accomplish. All in all, the entire team went above and beyond to deliver Fulton County’s vision for the renovation. 

That vision was realized with a new jaw-dropping technology that is seamlessly integrated and easy to use. With 3 Direct-View LED screens from Primeview, the ultimate flexibility of Crestron NVX. Our amazing project team succeeded collectively in delivering on the county’s vision which is truly something spectacular!

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